Apple has confirmed the new features it will deploy within Mac OS X 10.5 Server.

The new server software - which ships in October - has been designed to make it easier for users to set up and manage. The company calls the software, "the most significant improvement to the server operating system since Mac OS X Server was launched".

New features will include a wiki server; Podcast Producer, to automatically produce and publish podcasts to iTunes or a blog; and Spotlight Server to quickly find content stored on other servers.

Leopard Server also includes the new iCal Server, based on the CalDAV open standard that works with Leopard’s new iCal application.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing explained: “With no client access licenses, Leopard Server is the most affordable way to bring innovative server features, such as group calendaring and a wiki server, to everyone from small businesses to large educational institutions.”

Leopard Server will be able to automatically configure Leopard clients for use on the server, including file sharing, Mail, iCal, iChat, Address Book and VPN. Leopard Server also includes a new set-up interface with a built-in Network Health Check, a new Server Preferences application and a server status Dashboard widget.

The wiki server will allow groups to easily and quickly create and edit collaborative web pages, called wikis. It will maintain a complete history of entries and will have the ability to merge or compare different versions.

Podcast Producer will let users record content, automatically upload it to the server and convert it into a podcast. Using Xgrid, Podcast Producer can leverage Macs on the network to encode the video, and the podcast can then be delivered over the internet to a blog, iTunes, or even to multimedia enabled mobile phones over high speed wireless networks using QuickTime Streaming Server.

Apple's implementation of iCal Server promises to let users coordinate events, schedule meetings and track time effectively. It uses the open CalDAV standard for integration with leading calendar programs, including iCal 3 in Leopard, Mozilla’s Sunbird and OSAF’s Chandler. Apple's Directory makes it easy to search for people in an organisation and view their contact information, picture, colleagues, groups and even see a location map.

Spotlight Server takes Spotlight’s lightning-fast desktop search capability to the network server level. Designed for workgroups with shared documents, projects and files, Spotlight Server delivers search results of content stored on mounted network volumes. Content indexing is done automatically and transparently on the server so searches are always fast and up-to-date.

Leopard Server’s core services, including Apache 2, MySQL 5, Postfix, Cyrus, Podcast Producer and QuickTime Streaming Server are 64-bit, though it remains is fully 32-bit compatible so users can run 32-bit and 64-bit applications side-by-side. Leopard Server is also optimised to take full advantage of Intel’s multi-core processors.

Additional features include:

- Server Admin 4 with new file sharing and permission controls, tiered administration, and options for organising servers into smart groups.

- iChat Server 2 to securely communicate over instant messaging with others on different systems outside an organisation’s firewall.

- External Accounts to enable Leopard users to store their home directory on an external FireWire or USB portable drive.

- A new System Imaging Utility that uses a workflow-based editor to create customised images that can include Boot Camp partitions.

- Xgrid 2 featuring GridAnywhere for ad hoc distributed computing in environments without dedicated controllers, and Scoreboard for prioritising job distribution to the fastest available CPU.

- QuickTime Streaming Server 6 with support for 3GPP Release 6 bit rate adaptation for smooth streaming when delivering content to mobile phones regardless of network congestion.

Mac OS X Server version 10.5 Leopard and to cost £349 (including VAT) for a ten-client edition and £699 (including VAT) for an unlimited-client edition.